KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait yesterday urged the United Nations not to remove sanctions against Iraq until Baghdad settles all outstanding issues resulting from its invasion of the Gulf state nearly 20 years ago. The United Nations Security Council is due to review the sanctions next month after Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said in February during a visit to Iraq that the UN was considering scrapping them.
But the Kuwait government wants all matters between the two countries - including more than US$25 billion (Dh91bn) in reparations, the fate of missing people and prisoners of war, the return of stolen property and the demarcation of land and maritime borders between the two neighbours - to be resolved first. "We have made our point of view clear about Iraqi obligations to Kuwait, some of which have been implemented and some not," said Mohammad Abulhassan, an adviser to the emir who is heading Kuwait's mission.
Mr Abulhassan met the US deputy secretary of state, James Steinberg, in Washington on Wednesday to tackle "Iraq's current effort to get out of chapter seven of the UN charter", KUNA, the state news agency, reported. Chapter seven allows for sanctions or military action when a country poses a threat to international peace. Kuwait is visiting all members of the Security Council. Last week Mr Abulhassan visited Britain and the diplomatic mission has also been to Russia and France.
The emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, raised the matter on an official visit to China two weeks ago. Most of the sanctions that crippled Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule have already been lifted. The remaining restrictions limit weapons deals and some financial transactions. The UN set up the United Nations Compensation Commission to arbitrate claims resulting from Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990. Five per cent of Iraq's oil sales currently pay for claims that are awarded by the commission.
After the war, the commission received claims from Kuwaitis, Saudis and nearly 100 nationalities living or doing business in the region of about US$368bn and awarded about $52bn. Kuwaiti officials say Iraq still owes the country $25.5bn. The commission gave priority to smaller claims by individuals and families. Most of the outstanding claims belong to large corporations, governments and international organisations.
Iraq has been trying to ease the burden of foreign debt and war repatriations and channel more oil revenue into rebuilding the local economy. Iraq has called for the UN to reduce contributions from its oil revenue to one per cent and wants all remaining issues to be resolved bilaterally between Iraq and its neighbours. Yesterday, Ali al Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, said his country was seeking to resolve all outstanding issues with Kuwait.
"Kuwait should know that its Iraqi brothers are fully prepared to settle the issues of the missing and Kuwaiti assets," he said, without referring to the two countries' UN-demarcated border, which Baghdad has yet to recognise. "But the Iraqi government does not want this [the missing] to be an obstacle to lifting chapter seven because the new regime is not a threat to security or peace in the region," Mr Dabbagh said.
A 25-member Iraqi delegation is expected to visit Kuwait's Public Authority for the Assessment of Compensation for Damages on Sunday to discuss the compensation issue before meeting with foreign ministry officials. Iraq also owes Kuwait $16bn in loans from the Saddam era. The Paris Club group of nations, which includes the United States, Japan, Russia and the European nations, forgave $38.9bn of loans made during Saddam's reign.
"I think it's not an issue of wiping out the debts," said Rola Dashti, one of the four women who made headlines when they were elected to parliament last week. "We need to discuss how to use it to deepen and strengthen relationship with Iraq." Ms Dashti, who is also the chairwoman of Kuwait Economic Society, said economists have suggested a fund that would reinvest the money from war reparations into Iraq.
We should "use the fund to improve the standard of living of the Iraqi people", she said. firstname.lastname@example.org * With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse